NASHVILLE, May 30, 2017– As many students and parents know by now, the TN Ready test scores will not be factored into the grades of Rutherford County students this year. When the news came out, there were some upset parents, students, and teachers. I’ve received some questions about the situation, and did some research on the issue. There are still some questions, but hopefully, I can provide some useful information. The article in the Tennessean provides some info on the issue, as well.
First, as you may know, I ran a bill that required the TN Dept. Of Education to put forth a report on the validity of evaluations. With TN Ready scores as a metric in the computing of the evaluations, the tests have a direct impact and must be as valid as possible. Testing can be correlated with improved outcomes, however, the tests really cannot be proven to be a completely valid measure, especially in the first year.
There are five forms of evidence for validity:
- Evidence based on test content:
- Evidence based on response processes:
- Evidence based on internal structure:
- Evidence based on relations to other variables:
- Evidence based on consequences of testing:
Transparency and history of testing can improve items 1, 3, and 4. Without a baseline test, it is difficult to know whether the test content, the structure of the test, or the consistency of the test is valid. For these reasons, honestly, I wouldn’t want this year’s TN Ready to count on my child’s grade. It really shouldn’t count against teachers or schools, either. That being said, consequences of testing, such as the scores actually counting for a grade, will improve the validity of the test and evaluation. Even if the scores don’t count this year, the fact that students believed that the scores were going to count should improve long term validity of the process.
Response processes has to do with behaviors, attitudes, effort, and confidence in the testing. Many of these factors are beyond the control of the teachers such as whether or not the student tries on the test, had breakfast, parents are divorcing, etc. In addition, as I have said before, perception is reality, and the perception is that the TN Ready test isn’t actually ready and parents, students and teachers are losing confidence in the system……if there was any confidence to begin with.
Last session and this session, I had conversations with the TDOE about these issues, my concerns, and the concerns of many constituents. The bottom line is that a good idea executed poorly results in a bad outcome. We can debate about whether the testing and evaluations are a good idea or not, but the perception, as well as the reality, is that there has been poor execution of the testing process. Understanding the failings of the process and correcting the problems are of utmost importance if the state expects to have student, teacher and school improvement.
Based on some of the media reports, it appears as if the TDOE is shifting the responsibility to LEAs, while LEAs are pointing to the state or the testing vendor for the testing issue this year. The TDOE sent me the following response:
- All of the department’s timelines are on track.
- In February, we shared with superintendents that scores would be available beginning the week of May 22 if they submitted their testing materials by the deadlines published by our assessment vendor, Questar, and communicated by the department.
- Test scores are scored on a “first in first out” basis. Scores will be available on a rolling basis as they are processed by Questar.
- The overall timeline is similar to what districts have experienced in the past. Scores are usually available 2-3 weeks after the close of the testing window, which was on May 5.
- Pursuant to Chapter 256 of the Public Acts of 2015, districts may choose to exclude students’ test scores from the student’s grade if scores are not received at least five instructional days before the end of the school year.
While this is a positive response with some explanations, there are several more questions that arise. Based on the response, one can infer that LEAs were given a window to give the tests, and it is my understanding that they were given a 3 week window. Secondly, one can infer that the state knew or expected many of the tests, especially those administered late in the testing window, to not be graded in time so they could be used as part of a student’s final grade. Finally, if some students were tested at the start of the 3 week window, while students in other parts of the state are tested later, aren’t those later students and teachers being afforded extra prep time for the test?
I followed up again with the TDOE on the issue. The TDOE stated that they wanted to give the LEAs the flexibility on when to administer the tests, as well as allow districts the ability to hold their report cards until the scores were returned, if they wished. In my opinion, Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City schools, by testing later, afforded their students and teachers a better opportunity to perform better on the test. It is, also, my opinion that it was prudent to not include the TN Ready test scores due to the above mentioned validity concerns.
In addition to the timing problem, one of my biggest complaints has been the communication breakdown on the testing process. The TDOE informed me that parents and LEAs were provided with information, several times, about this year’s TN Ready. HERE is the link they provided. While this link is fairly informative, I’m still not sure many parents or teachers ever saw or reviewed the information.
I asked, “What is being done to ensure the tests are returned in time next year?” The response was as follows:
“We anticipate online testing will improve timelines. Currently, we are losing at least 7-10 days of potential scoring time with shipping and delivery, and that is a time-consuming process for districts, as well. It can be longer if there are issues with shipping, such as bad weather, a delivery truck breaking down, missed pick-up dates, not having enough labels, etc. In addition, we, now, need to hand-score parts of the assessment, which necessitates having testing documents back as soon as possible. Online assessment means the student responses are immediately available to score.
While we believe we were clear and communicated multiple times that raw scores would be available in late May, we will strive to ensure everyone is clear on that timeline next year and make any process adjustments that are needed to help the raw score return process go more smoothly.”
I know this information won’t change what has already occurred, but my constituents, parents, teachers and, most importantly, students need to know that someone is at the Capitol holding people accountable and fighting to improve the situation.
The end result of my bill was an agreement with the TDOE and the TEA to provide a report on the evaluation process which will review the past problems, discuss the intent, and provide information on changes. Hopefully, it will help students, parents, teachers and LEAs to better understand the process, problems, and changes while allowing for feedback. It is a government of, by, and for the people, and my aim is to ensure “we the people” have that voice.
Rep. Bryan Terry